What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

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What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:28 pm

(Due to my pc taking 10 mins to upload each picture, I'm only going to post Day 1 tonight. I'll try again tomorrow with the rest. Sorry)

Hi everyone, sorry for the delay in posting this but I had to trawl through over 300 photographs of the trip and crop, rotate, brighten and generally tittivate a lot of them. And I had to hide as much evidence as possible about our exact locations, lest unscrupulous eyes are watching Suspect
During our 5 day trip, we saw and did so much, and covered so much ground (and ate so much food!) that I've decided against a full blow-by-blow write-up. It would take me forever to write and you would doubtless get half way through before you realised the pictures tell the story just as well. So I'm going with the "Photo documentary" approach with explanatory (and oft times, incredibly witty) captions. Sorry if this disappoints, but hey, I've gotta sleep to ya know!

Anyway, are you sitting comfortably? Then off we jolly well go......

WEDS, DAY 1

Due to my Blackberry's selfless act of sacrifice in saving my arse from a proper bruising during a fall on the mountain, I am unable to bring you the pics I took on our arrival at Krakow airport in Poland, or the journey through Poland and the Czech Republic on the way to Schloss Pavel. Suffice to say, From the minute we left the airport, we were immediately in the middle of some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. The original picture postcard views as far as the eye could see and in every direction. The sun was shining, the road ahead was clear and all was right with the world.
For the first 20 minutes at least. Then the rain started. And the lightening. And the thunder.
You know those storms they always have in Murder She Wrote and Columbo? Well, it was exactly like one of those. Except you would have got properly soaked if you went out in it, and not just get a few sprinkles of water on your shoulders.
Another 20 minutes though, and we were back into the baking sunshine. Now, just another 2 1/2 hours and we'll be there!
That's something I noticed on our trip. Everything was always bloody miles away from where we were at the time. Not that it mattered. When you're surrounded by stunning views, the journey doesn't seem so long anymore.

Right, time for some pictures. After a brief stop at Pavels house.....

.....for coffee and a quick wash n brush up, we headed up the hill to visit Mirek (Pavel's student and friend) and his amazing garden. I know some of you will have seen pics of his 'greenhouse' (as it is affectionately known) before, but I make no apologies for presenting these new shots here. For those of you who haven't seen the garden, or his trees before, prepare to start drooling.





Me sharing a joke with Mirek. There was a whole lot of laughing done over the 5 days!

Me and Tony with one of Mirek's latest acquisitions, a gorgeous Satsuki Azalea. How jealous are you right now? Wait until you see it on day 3 in full sun and with twice as many flowers!

Me and Pavel discussing one of the trees

Root over rock yamadori Yew, bought from Tony last year and obviously thriving in the Czech climate!

Olive

More tree pics to come later, after the sun comes out again!

Mireks 'greenhouse' (which is actually a purpose built, Japanese style, fully equipped bonsai workshop, with fully fitted kitchen and bathroom, photographic studio, temperature controlled winter storage unit with artificial daylight bulbs, AND living/sleeping accomodation upstairs) is situated in the garden of his old house, which he has now given to his daughter and her family. This typifies the man, to be honest. Never have I met such a generous and humble person as him. And boy, does he know some good restaurants!
This is his old house and garden. Stunning or what?



What you can't see is the large pond/small lake, stocked with 6000 trout!

After a good couple of hours looking around the garden, we were taken to a restaurant at the top of the hill for dinner. And man, what a dinner! Onion soup with melted cheese in the bottom, and.....maybe it's better if I show you.


This is typical of a Czech meal. Meat, and lots of it! Their steaks are more like slices through a cow. Tony documented everything we ate during our stay. I'll post the rest of the food pics on my Photobucket account later this week for those gourmets amongst us, or you can check out Tony's sons' blog "Things we have eaten". Shameless plug over.
It's worth noting at this point that "No thank you, 5 shots of extremely potent, locally distilled Slivovitz is quite enough for me" translates into Czech as "Ooh, yes please! And keep 'em coming!" Just ask Tony.

About 100 metres from the restaurant was this structure....

Church, right? Wrong. Believe it or not, this is Mirek's garage. Yes, you heard me right. The top floors house a tourist centre, exhibition hall, art gallery and souvenir shop, but the bottom floor is Mirek's garage. The guy's got style.
Another 100 metres further on and just inside the edge of the forest was Mirek's new, smaller house.

And this is his view....


But I'm getting ahead of myself here. before we went to meet Mrs Mirek, he took us down to the local village to show us a Japanese garden he designed and built. I'm not sure, but I think it's for the people of the village. Tony? Am I right?
(Btw, the chap in the white t-shirt is Jakub, or Kuba, Pavel's eldest son, translator, photographer extraordinaire and all-round good guy. Sorry ladies, he's already taken)








Anyway, roughly an hour later and it was all back to Mirek's for coffee. Did I say coffee? Yeah, right. When a Czech or Slovak offers you coffee, this is what he means.....



And this is less than 2 hrs after we'd had a 3 course dinner, don't forget!

Right, that's it for day 1. We'd been up since 5am that morning, and travelled a whole heap of miles, so it was time to hit the hay ready for our early morning start on day 2. We were off to Slovakia and one of Pavel's secret collecting sites on the hunt for Scots Pine. And boy did we find Scots Pine!

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment of our international bonsai gastrofest!
(And I promise less food and more trees from here on in)




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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Russell Coker on Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:50 pm

I think my head just exploded.

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:53 pm

Settle down, Russell. There's still another 4 days and a whole heap of bonsai/yamadori related madness still to come!

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What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Guest on Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:04 am

Looks like an amazing place Steve. Mirek's abode looks magical. I have to say the food is making me drool but maybe the portions could be a bit more generous pig Very Happy

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:12 am

LOL, believe me Will, when you eat 3 big meals a day, then get given buffet meals at every house you go to, the portion size loses all significance!

And you're absolutely right, it is an amzing place. If ever you get the chance to go, do it. The countryside is breathtaking, the houses and villages beautiful and olde worlde, the people friendly and generous to a fault, and everywhere you go is so empty compared to our crushed and rushed lifestyle. If I ever have the money, that's where I want to retire to.
I just need to buy some looser fitting pants, is all.

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  fiona on Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:19 am

I've estimated around half a stone's worth of food in that one post alone.
And that was just Wednesday.


Focus on the trees! Focus on the trees! Focus on the .... ahhhhhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!... COLD MEAT PLATTER!!!

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Tony on Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:21 am

will baddeley wrote:I have to say the food is making me drool but maybe the portions could be a bit more generous pig Very Happy

Lets just say that it was like Christmas day with the vicar of Dibley (remember the episode) I can honestly say the hospitality with food and falling down juice was abundant... so much so that I chose to wear braces (true) Shocked

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  fiona on Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:38 am

tony wrote: the hospitality with food and falling down juice was abundant... so much so that I chose to wear braces (true) Shocked
For the benefit of our north american colleagues, please note he means suspenders - a term which, interestingly, has an altogther different meaning in the UK and one which I'm not entirely discounting.
Looks like a fab trip whatever the revised dress code was. I await the next installment of photies with bated breath and hallucinations of onion soup and canapés.

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Guest on Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:39 am

tony wrote:
will baddeley wrote:I have to say the food is making me drool but maybe the portions could be a bit more generous pig Very Happy

Lets just say that it was like Christmas day with the vicar of Dibley (remember the episode) I can honestly say the hospitality with food and falling down juice was abundant... so much so that I chose to wear braces (true) Shocked

Braces? Sounds like more of an underpants moment. Go with the flow I say. You lucky people.

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Chris Cochrane on Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:59 am

Mirek mention anything about his garden entrance stone while y'all were tearing flesh together?


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  John Quinn on Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:52 am

Wow...what a trip. Looking forward to more photos.

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Stone Monkey on Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:54 am

Steve & Tony

Amazing!!!! I will be tuned in for the next 4 episodes. You lucky so and so's you Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy

Regards

Andy

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Tony on Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:17 am

A few clarification points for you Guys...
1) The Peace Garden: has been built for the Townsfolk and donated by Mirek,
2) Chris: Oh Boy is that an entrance stone ... Photo to follow
3) Braces: I have ALWAYS been ahead of the fashion curve Suspect despite the shorts and fleece outfit Shocked
4) The hospitality received was quite breathtaking and gut busting
5) I have rarely seen so many world class trees in one garden

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‎"Study me as much as you like, you will never know me, for I differ a hundred ways from what you see me to be. Put yourself behind my eyes, and see me as I see myself, for I have chosen to dwell in a place you cannot see." — Rumi

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  handy mick on Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:05 am

Looks like i'm on the next trip cheers , i'm already dreaming. pale

Mick

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Dan Barton on Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:44 am

Fantabulous!!! Nothing less. Do they do 'Take-Aways'?

Cheers, Dan

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Ed van der Reek on Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:07 pm

What a feast to be there,you lucky bums Very Happy
I am looking forward to the rest of the story.
And I sign in for the next trip lol!
Greetings Ed

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  GerhardGerber on Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:29 pm

Epic Cool

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what we did

Post  alex e on Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:51 pm

Mirek & Pavel my adoption papers are in the post Very Happy Very Happy Wink stunning!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alex e Bagpiper

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  matt addie on Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:33 pm

Wow! Looks like you guys had a fantastic trip ... and this is just Day 1??!!!

Steve - I know you put of lot of effort into putting a report like this together and it's not always an easy task so a huge thanks for dedicating the time so that we can share the wonder of the trip.

Looking forward to seeing the following instalments Very Happy cheers

Matt

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Mikey P on Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:50 pm

Hey Steve. I just want to second what Matt said. Thanks for the your time and effort you have given to this report. I look forward to the next few chapters. Do not forget your lil story involving your Harley t-shirt, that the owner of that bar wanted. Tony said his face dropped when you walked in. Also pleased to hear you came away from you fall with miner injuries. Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy thumbs up

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:52 pm

@ Chris C: I was as impressed with that stone as you, mate. I'll post better pics of it for you in tonights instalment. I found a small, fist-sized piece of it on the floor behind it and forgot to bring the bloody thing home with me. GAAAH!

@ Tony: I can find nothing in your statements that I can disagree with. Except maybe the being ahead of the fashion curve thing. It's probably more a case of being so far behind the curve that it's come round full circle and hit you in the arse!

@ Matt: Cheers mate, much appreciated. It is a lot of work, but a tale like this needs telling, and seeing as I was there and witnessed the whole thing......

Well, apart from when I was upside down and trying to decide whether to land on my phone or hurtle 5000ft down the mountainside. I didn't see much of that bit. I got good marks from the judges though!

@ Mikey P: Ooh, I'd forgotten about that. Nice one! Yeah, he did look a bit peeved, lol. I came to an agreement with him before we left though. That'll be in part 3.

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  fiona on Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:48 pm

Harleyrider wrote: Well, apart from when I was upside down and trying to decide whether to land on my phone or hurtle 5000ft down the mountainside. I didn't see much of that bit. I got good marks from the judges though!
I always thought you had the figure for a right good triple salcow (with pike). Or was it more of a grand jeté?

Keep them thar pictures coming. I'm under house arrest on account of having high velocity explosive snotters, and your post is the highlight of my last two days.

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Bob Brunt on Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:19 pm

Oh Fiona !!
high velocity explosive snotters
That's my dinner in the dog ! ThumbsUp

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  ferdy-san on Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:24 pm

Thank you for posting the pictures of such marvellous trip, if that was just a sample of the first day, i think you just spent 5 days in paradise, can't wait to see the pics of the following days, what a good time, wow...

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:09 pm

Before we go any further, I've had a request for a closer look at the entrance stone outside Mirek's garden. Happy to oblige, Chris.

How's that? It is a beautiful lump of rock, I agree. Mirek told me he imported it from China, and I have no reason to doubt him. Beyond that, I know nothing about it, but I'll ask him and get back to you.


Ok, so where was I.....? Ah, yes.

THURS, DAY 2

After being awake for over 20 of the previous 24 hours, and having flown, driven and walked God knows how many kilometres, I still couldn't sleep. How could I, what with all the things I'd seen (and eaten) since we landed? It was just coming daylight when I eventually drifted off.......only to be woken by an infuriatingly bright and breezy Tony rattling the door and cheerfully urging me to "Get your lazy arse out of bed...we're all waiting for you out here!"
He has such a command of the Queens' English.

In the Czech Republic, you don't have breakfast, or take breakfast, you kind of 'experience' it. The last time I saw that much food, and in such a variety, it was waiting for 28 ravenous Harley-riding gorillas and was spread across 3 trestle tables. How on earth Pavel's wife had managed to get that much food onto a family-sized dining table, I haven't the faintest idea. A selection of cold meats, various salami/sausage, at least 2 different kinds of bread, honey, jams, yoghurts, cheeses (including the yummy national favourite, sheeps cheese!), sweet pie, fruits, various juices and strong, black continental coffee. And we had to go and climb a mountain in a couple of hours.

Another half an hour or so and we'd driven up the hill to collect Mirek and we were on our way to Slovakia to the first of Pavel's hush-hush collecting sites. For obvious reasons I'm not going to tell you the exact location, but suffice to say it was quite a drive and then a 40 minute, breath-stealing hike up an almost vertical 'hill' to reach the rocky outcrops a few hundred feet above the surrounding countryside. To make matters worse, the ground was covered in last autumns' leaves so we couldn't see the mass of exposed roots beneath waiting to trip us, and so humid was it below the dense canopy of foliage that moisture was actually dripping onto us constantly, just like in the rainforest. As a final insult, if you did start to slip down the hill, anything you grabbed hold of literally pulled straight out of the fine, gravelly soil and offered no assistance whatsoever.
I just have to tell you about that soil. You could make an absolute fortune selling it in bags to bonsai enthusiasts. It is the perfect medium for growing almost any kind of tree or plant you will ever find. Light, humous rich, made up of rotted Pine needles and leaves and with the perfect amount of Akadama/pumice-like stone crumbled from the cliffs above. Tony and I have Pines, collected from the same place last year, that are thriving in this soil. If you're at Burrs this year, come and check it out.

Anyway, sorry.....back to the story.

Here are a few shots of us making our gasping way in the general direction of up.

Just to the left of Pavel and me is one of the trees you will see at Burrs. It took literally 30 seconds to collect it. Just take a firm grip of the trunk, give a couple of good pulls and away she comes, along with 100% of the roots! It was growing in little more than a mat of moss on top of a rock.

This was about half way up. See the little house way below me? There was absolutely nothing between me and the field it's sitting in. Apart from the tree, obviously. I wish you could see the twist in that trunk more clearly. It must have circled the trunk 1 1/2 times!

Tony found this cracking Pine cascading from a needle of rock right on the edge of a 200ft drop. No wonder he's smiling!

That cheesy grin soon vanished though. The second he lifted the rootball clear of the rock he was swarmed by the occupants of the ants nest he'd just uprooted. My, how we chuckled, lol. Fortunately, they turned out to be more interested in saving the children than attacking us, so we left the tree on the ground for 5 minutes to give them time to evacuate the area.
I can think of no better setting for in impromptu lesson in Pine care!

Upwards, ever upwards!

We didn't bother collecting this one. Yeah, right, lol.

The first person to suggest "Gorilla in the mist" as a caption for this pic gets a punch up the bracket!

Never one to let my safety get in the way of a good photo opportunity, Tony despatched me to climb this pinnacle, and no, there's nothing but 500ft of empty air 6ins behind my backside pale . It was worth the effort though, not only was the view spectacular, but I collected two big clumps of wild Sempervivum to use as accents. Yet another thing I managed to leave in Pavel's garden, sigh.

Just to show that Tony is as willing to risk his own neck as he is mine, here he is crawling along a narrow ledge to collect a tree. It was a hell of a long way down if he slipped, believe me.

Just like everywhere else we visited, the views were spectacular.




After an exhilerating few hours scrambling around like mountain goats, we set off back down the hill with our arms and rucksacks filled with the fruits of our labours. Whilst most of us picked our way gingerly down the slippery paths, this proved far to pedestrian for one of our party, didn't it...Kuba? Clinging desperately to branches and trunks for support, we were suddenly overtaken by a yelping, khaki-coloured blur, skidding downhill at a great rate of knots, scattering pine needles, rocks and mud in all directions and leaving a perfect arse-shaped groove behind him. Full of concern, it was all we could do to keep our footing as we doubled up laughing at him!
While we're on the subject, do you know the difference between a mountain goat and a goldfish? One mucks about in fountains, and the other...........
Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Moving swiftly along, after cleaning ourselves off (some of us more than others, eh Kuba Laughing ), we crammed our finds into the back of Pavels' car and headed off for something to eat. Just for a change! Our appetites fully sated, it was off to Pavels house to examine and pot the trees. It's weird, y'know....when we had the trees spread out on the lawn, I could have sworn there was more than what we started with. I still can't get the maths to add up.
I'll add some pictures of our booty when I get them from Jakub.
All told, we had around a dozen trees. After potting them up, it was time to water in and take a good look at what we had. Tony and I were debating which trees belonged to who (why do they always look so different when you get them home?) when Pavel solved the issue by telling us that they all belonged to Tony and me! Talk about gobsmacked. Like I keep saying though, generous to a fault. No amount of protestation would change his mind, and I admit to being quite overcome with his gesture.
Unfortunately, all the pics I took of our collected trees in their new pots were lost in my busted phone, so I'm waiting for Kuba to send me some. I'll post them in this thread as and when they appear. I also lost all the pics I took of Pavel's garden and beautiful trees, which I'm gutted about, but I'm expecting a bundle of those to appear soon as well.

So, trees potted up and greenhoused, it was time for coffee, shower and yet more food! It was at this point that I noticed my jeans were beginning to get a little snug, and I started to eye Tony's braces covetously.............it's no good, I'm sorry. I know I said I'd leave the food pics alone, but I just can't leave without showing you what we had for lunch just after coming down from the hill. Calorie warning, Fiona!
Several of these......(not for me, I'm teetotal)

A bowl of onion soup & sheeps cheese

Potato pancakes with fried white goose livers

A big serving of Wild Game Goulash, with Red Deer, Wild Boar, and another kind of deer that we couldn't decipher beyond working out it was small, so Tony and I christened it Bambi, potato and onion dumplings, all served in a spicy gravy

And Pavel and I had iced coffee with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce to finish, but I didn't get a picture of that, it disappeared too quickly!
You'll hera me say this a lot during this report, but it was one of the tastiest meals I've ever eaten, and in beautiful surroundings too. The restaurant belonged to a friend of Mirek and Pavel's and looked like you should be in formal evening wear just to walk past the place. We slouched in in our collecting gear and nobody batted an eye. Here's a quick glimpse of where we were. Vegetarians, look away now!

RARRR! GRRRR! SNARL!

I don't fancy yours much, Tony. Mind you, I don't much like the look of mine either!

I took several pics of the intricately carved ceiling panels, but they were in my phone too, sigh. As were the ones of our gorgeous waitress, dressed in traditional peasant clothes. She was nice Wink

Right folks, apart from another monster buffet waiting for us when we got back to Pavels and a coffee/beer/bonsai session that lasted into the small hours (for some of us), that was day 2 over. Tomorrow was the biggy though. Tomorrow we were heading deeper into Slovakia to tackle the 5000ft mountain that shall remain nameless in the hunt for knee high 500 year old Mugo Pine that we were promised carpetted the whole area. Bring it on, I say!




Last edited by Harleyrider on Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:39 pm; edited 3 times in total

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